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IIM-Ahmedabad’s unique business programme for entrepreneurs can help cultural startups expand globally

CCBP has also introduced a bold experiment to include rural artisans to learn alongside industry entrepreneurs. The 15-day programme is delivered through 3 sets of in-class interactions (camps) on campus across 6 months, with research, assignments and online interaction.

CCBP participants engaged in group discussions and presentations at IIM Ahmedabad. (Photo: IIMA)

Indian cultural and creative goods have been a centre of attraction for western consumers for centuries. Indian artisanal skills, whether making fine muslin from handspun yarn, hand-done kalamkari, paisley motifs, naturally dyed indigo, were all prized merchandise for the traders feeding the royalty and the privileged in Europe and elsewhere. However, the entrepreneurship ecosystem does not seem to be ready to train the next-gen founders of cultural startups.

The unique Creative & Cultural Businesses Programme (CCBP) at IIM Ahmedabad is curated for entrepreneurs in the creative and cultural industries. It aims to bridge the skill gap among talented artists and to-be entrepreneurs in multiple sectors including the visual arts, creative services, design, entertainment, new media, performing arts, retail, traditional cultural expressions, and publishing and print media.

The founding co-chair at the CCBP, Anchal Jain, spent over 15 years in Paris developing different brands but he always felt that India’s artistic heritage has not found its due recognition. “The programme was initially conceived as Crafting Luxury & Lifestyle Businesses (CLLB) but in early 2019, it was remodelled as Creative & Cultural Businesses Programme (CCBP). The thought that the world is ready for Indian cultural goods, but we are not as there was no globally recognised brand from India in the creative domain propelled the programme,” Jain said.

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In India, more than 30 million craftspersons are involved in the sector but despite several interventions, it suffers from a number of challenges that inhibit large-scale investment from the corporate houses, said Amit Karna, the chairperson of the programme.

Besides breaking the moulds of traditional brand-building science, the CCBP introduced a bold experiment in cultural education by including rural artisans to learn alongside industry entrepreneurs. “This meant adapting the learning methods for the artisans in a way that there are assured learning outcomes without affecting the classroom rhythm. Group preparation techniques and peer learning helped deliver on this objective to a very large extent,” Karna added.

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The 15-day programme is delivered through three sets of in-class interactions (camps) on campus across six months, with research, assignments and online interaction. Each participant is paired with a mentor and is required to build on their respective business cases and prepare for the final showcase to a panel of industry leaders.

The value creation process is one of the strongest aspects that distinguishes the programme from other business incubators. The chairpersons of the programme believe that everything, including the delivery system, management of creative talent, structuring of the organisation and pricing, is very different from the traditional startup system. The CCBP is designed around the premise that the products and services in this industry should have a “strong resonance with their customers and build an emotional connection to cater to them”.

“Businesses in the creative and cultural industry thrive when they understand their niche, their exceptional-ness, and they use their uniqueness to excel and create a business model around it. Creative startups that participate in the programme are most often grounded in the ‘Indianness’. They have to be trained and scaled in a way that they are not about expensive products but priceless ones.  They can be ‘desi’ but need to be rare to create an impact,” Jain added.

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The programme is now also working on building original research and writing Indian case studies for the participants to learn from.

In the beginning, said Karna, it was strongly felt that traditional business-school courses did not address aspects that are key to creative and/or cultural businesses. “Over the years, we have been proven right, and the participants have particularly appreciated the application of traditional business school concepts to the creative and cultural business context in a meaningful manner,” he added.

Jane Mason, an alumnus of the programme, founded Mason and Co — India’s first bean-to-bar chocolate maker, producing organic, gourmet, single-origin chocolate and cacao products, where every bar of chocolate bought can be traced to a specific region or farm. Another alumnus, Vipasha Tilak, initiated the Banjara Talkies — a community-building initiative that focuses on celebrating invite-only intimate musical concerts. The Banjara experience aims to capture and demonstrate the rich sonic tapestry of India.

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Marc’s Coffees by Marc Tormo is an Indian speciality coffee company focusing on the ‘seed to cup’ concept, roasted with passion and precision. “The programme provided me with various insightful experiences, from critical thinking, decision-making process and finances to understanding different perspectives. Peer learning was also one of the enablers and I continue to keep in touch with talented entrepreneurs from different fields,” said Marc Tormo, the CEO of Marc’s Coffees, who attended the programme in 2017.

Candidates are first shortlisted based on their application form and will then be required to send in a statement of purpose of not more than 200 words at this stage before the interview, including a video interview with the faculty co-chairs of the programme.

First published on: 18-12-2021 at 17:37 IST
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